Monday, March 25, 2013

Keep Your Hands Flat... by Sylvia Shults

Today I hand over the reins to Sylvia Shults... And she's talking about dinosaurs. And other stuff. But go check out her website here already. Then sit back and be prepared to be entertained. 

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When I was a little girl, I had lots of interests. That was just a product of being an early and voracious reader. Like many girls, I was completely horse crazy. And like even more children, I was totally, hopelessly, head over heels wild for dinosaurs.

I’ve mostly (okay, somewhat) outgrown the horse-craziness. Don’t get me wrong, I still love horses, but not with the all-consuming adoration I did when I was six. (And seven. And eight. And … okay, I’ll stop there.)

But I’m still thoroughly loony for dinosaurs.

If anything, my dino-lust is even stronger now than when I was a kid. Back in the day, you just had a few books – the How & Why Wonder Book was my fave – with the basic heavy hitters: Triceratops, Stegosaurus,  Brontosaurus (this was before brontos were declared an un-dinosaur and replaced with Apatosauruses), and of course, everybody’s favorite carnivore, Tyrannosaurus Rex. You just knew he was cool because he was the only dino that merited two names. Even though I would never admit it (you were supposed to like the plant-eaters, not the meat-eaters), T-Rex was secretly my favorite. I remember watching Land of the Lost on Saturday mornings,  and at the end of the opening credits, when the T-Rex chased the humans into the cave – anybody else remember this? – I’d leap up from the floor and turn up the volume as LOUD AS IT WOULD GO when the T-Rex roared. It drove my Grandma Ruth batshit, I’m sure.

But nowadays, heck, when it comes to dinosaurs, they’re a cast of thousands. And they’re not just pencil drawings in books or dusty old bones in museums, either. They’re living, breathing badasses who have their own TV shows. (That’s how I knew my husband and I were destined to be soulmates, by the way. He had the good sense and exquisite taste to take me to see Jurassic Park for our first movie date. True love was in the air.)

So anyway, I’m still a shamelessly unrepentant dino-dork. I’ll watch any of the Walking With Dinosaurs shows. And I loves me some Terra Nova (although that may have less to do with dinos and more to do with the hero of the show. Rowrrrrr.) And if Jurassic Park really existed, I would cheerfully knock over a liquor store to get the price of a plane ticket to Costa Rica. I can’t get over how lucky we are to live on a planet that was once home to these magnificent creatures. (And how lucky we are that they’ve all died off. Sorry guys.)

That’s why, when the Discover the Dinosaurs exhibit came to the Peoria Civic Center, with animatronic dinosaurs, I knew I had to go. Wild velociraptors couldn’t keep me away. I knew I was going to jazz on the moving dinosaurs, but I was looking forward to something else even more than groaning Triceratopses and roaring T-Rexes.

They were giving dinosaur rides.

I’m not even kidding. They said it on the radio, so I knew it was true. You could get up and ride. On a dinosaur. That moved. While you were sitting on it.

It was enough to make my inner six-year-old just curl up and DIE.

My two best friends picked me up from work, and the three of us went across the river to the Civic Center. We walked around for a while, gazing raptly at the Stegosaurus, the Triceratops, the baby Ankylosaurus (who just had the cutest face). There was an unfortunate plethora of small children in attendance too, which we did our best to ignore. Kind of hard to do when they’re reaching over the ropes to stick their hands in the moving stegosaur’s mouth, but there you have it. Kids will be kids, and brats, bless their stinky little souls, will be brats.

I stood for a while and just stared, entranced, at the animatronic T-Rex. You pushed a button on his display panel to make him move for a few minutes. Most of the time there were plenty of children around to push the button, but sometimes when there was a shortage of miniature humans, I pushed the button myself to keep him moving. (Hey, I’m not proud. It was a MOVING T-REX. Of COURSE I was going to keep pushing the button.)

Eventually we wandered out of the educational exhibit part and over to the Shameless Commerce Division of the whole operation.

That’s where we saw them.

There were two of them. A Stegosaurus, who basically just rocked back and forth, heel to toe, as though it was just incredibly bored. A baby ride, pretty much. The Cretaceous equivalent of the dumb old train at the carnival that just goes around in a big circle and doesn’t do anything fun.

But next to him, ah, next to him there was a real live fake Tyrannosaurus Rex. It was just a juvenile, but it was still eight feet tall. The saddle was a satisfyingly high distance from the exhibit room floor. And you could just tell by watching it that once you got up there and settled yourself in the saddle, and he started up, you could just TELL that you’d be able to feel the creature’s motion underneath you in the roll of your hips and the flex of your thighs.

I really really wanted to ride that T-Rex.

Each ticket was $2, and it took three tickets to ride. I couldn’t talk either of my friends into springing for tickets, although they did graciously agree to take pictures and video of my ride. Suddenly I felt six years old. (At north of … um … thirty, I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.)

I paid my six bucks and got my three tickets, and we stood in line. The sign at the gate said “Six years and older”. Hey, they made the rules, right? I watched as child after child climbed the dozen steps up to the saddle, clambered in, buckled the laughable excuse for a seatbelt, had their ride, then scrambled off and scampered down the stairs, grinning from ear to ear. We got closer and closer to the head of the line. I began to realize that when it was my turn to climb those stairs and plop my butt down on that saddle, my knees were going to be somewhere around my ears. I started to reconsider the wisdom of looking like a complete idiot in front of all those people. But fortunately, I was born without a sense of shame or moderation. Heck, that’s why I’m a horror writer.

At last – at last! – it was our … er, MY turn. Full disclosure: I already knew how this was going to end. But I was determined to make a stand for grownups’ Right to Ride. Why should kids have all the fun? Besides, I just wanted to see the look of blank panic on the ride attendant’s face when I handed him my tickets.

It was everything I thought it would be. (The look of sheer panic, I mean. Not, unfortunately, the ride.) The guy was so flustered, he actually spluttered a few incoherent syllables when I held up my tickets and gave him my most innocent smile.

“The sign DOES say ‘six years and older’,” I pointed out helpfully, in case he’d forgotten.

“Eh … but … um … you also have to be less than a hundred pounds,” he stammered.

Well. I’m a lot of things, but “under a hundred pounds” is not one of them. You’ll be pleased to know, though, that I was able to return my tickets and get my six bucks back. And even without the ride (which would have been hella fun, I don’t care what anyone says), we did enjoy the exhibit.

I still would have liked to ride that T-Rex, though.

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